Flu Season: tough season for seniors

The flu outbreak has heavily impacted the very young and the elderly especially this year.

  • Feb. 8, 2017 5:00 p.m.

Barbara Latkowski

Caledonia Courier

The flu outbreak has heavily impacted the very young and the elderly especially this year. Northern Health urges all to receive the flu vaccination particularly if visiting long term health care facilities on a regular basis.

People at risk of complications include: children between the ages of six months to five years, seniors 65 and older, pregnant women, aboriginal people and individuals with chronic health conditions and compromised immune systems.

Each year, about 3,500 Canadians die from influenza and its complications. Hospitalized patients and seniors in residential care are more vulnerable.

Influenza, often called “the flu,” is an upper respiratory infection (nose throat and lungs) caused by an influenza virus. It spreads easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing, or face-to face contact. People often use the term “flu” to describe other illnesses such as the “stomach flu” or the common cold which are different illnesses, caused by other pathogens.

According to Northern Health, influenza symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Cough

Children may also experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Although these symptoms are similar to the common cold, symptoms caused by influenza tend to be more severe and last longer (7-10 days).

Influenza is not always a harmless illness. It can cause serious health risks including death. A person with influenza is also at risk of other infections, such as bacterial or viral pneumonia (an infection of the lungs).

Every year, about 1,400 people in B.C. die from influenza and complications of influenza, such as pneumonia. The peak of the influenza season is traditionally November to April. Your best protection from getting and transmitting influenza is

the influenza vaccine.

During the influenza season, residents who are at risk are advised to get their free influenza vaccine. Influenza vaccine (available through your local health unit, pharmacist, and your family doctor), along with good personal hygiene, including effective hand washing provides the best defence against contracting and spreading the influenza virus.

It is important for seniors to get the influenza vaccine before the flu season starts.

In British Columbia, the influenza vaccines are usually available in October. For best protection, you should try to get the influenza vaccine as soon as possible. This gives your body enough time – about 2 weeks – to build immunity before the flu season starts. This immunity typically lasts through the flu season which usually ends in April.

In addition to the influenza vaccine, seniors should be immunized against pneumococcal disease. The pneumococcal vaccine protects against infections of the brain, bloodstream, lungs, and ear. It is safe to get the influenza and pneumococcal vaccines at the same time. Most people only need 1 dose of pneumococcal vaccine and will not need a booster dose.

For more information about the flu and flu shot call: (250) 996-7178.

 

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